With the Beat from the East putting snow in everyone's minds and pathways, people looking at booking last-minute skiing holidays are being warned by Action Fraud - the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime - that fraudsters may be poised to cash in.
A report, in conjunction with the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), found that in 2017, victims of ski chalet fraud lost a total of £231,875 to fraudsters.
This is an average of £2016 per person and an eight percent increase on the year before.
Fraudsters are selling bogus ski chalet holidays to unsuspecting victims who are paying large deposits for a property. Once they make the payment they never hear from the property agent again.
In some instances, victims will turn up in the mountains to find their chosen chalet does not exist or is being used by other holidaymakers.
The vast majority of people who go on winter sports holidays have a trouble free experience, but for some, problems can occur. Holidaymakers booking their flights, transfers and chalets online through separate suppliers are particularly vulnerable to offers that on the surface appears great value for money, but in reality are a scam.
Head of Action Fraud, Pauline Smith, said: “We have seen a rise in the number of ski chalet fraud reports made over the past two years and the impact of falling victim to this type of fraud can be far greater than the financial loss, people can end up missing out on a well-deserved break and left with feelings of distrust which may stop them from booking online in the future. We hope that by raising awareness, people will feel better able to protect themselves
“We recommend that you are thorough when researching a last minute holiday and that you book directly with an airline or hotel, or through a reputable agent. When deciding to deal directly with a property owner or letting agent, be sure to ask them questions about the booking, room, location and area.
“We urge anyone who believes they have been a victim of fraud to report the incident to Action Fraud.”
Chief Executive of ABTA, Mark Tanzer, added: “Unfortunately travel is a very attractive area for fraudsters, who are becoming increasingly sophisticated in the way they target the public and ski chalet bookings. As these are often of high value with scarce availability, it is a very lucrative area for them.
"Look for membership of legitimate travel companies such as ABTA and follow police advice, as well as the general information and tips from Get Safe Online. Travel fraud does not only result in financial losses, the emotional costs can also be severe, with much anticipated holidays or trips to visit loved ones being cancelled at very short notice.
"Victims often only find out once they’ve arrived in resort that they’ve been ripped off.”
Minimise the risks of falling victim to ski holiday fraud:
Do your research: Don’t just rely on one review - do a thorough online search to check the holiday company’s credentials. If a company is defrauding people there is a good chance that consumers will post details of their experiences, and warnings about the company.Stay safe online: Check the web address is legitimate and has not been altered by slight changes to a domain name – such as going from .co.uk to .orgPay safe: Be cautious if you're asked to pay directly into a private individual’s bank account. Paying by direct bank transfer is like paying by cash – the money is very difficult to trace and is not refundable. Wherever possible, pay by credit card or a debit card.Check paperwork: You should study receipts, invoices as well as terms and conditions. Be very wary of any companies that don’t provide any at all.Look for the logo: Check whether the company is a member of a recognised trade body such as ABTA. If you have any doubts, you can verify membership of ABTA.Take out travel insurance: Always make sure that you have adequate insurance in place. This can be brought directly from an insurance broker or the travel company.Use your instincts: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.